‘Perfect’ skies draw big crowds to Westmoreland Fair – Tribune-Review

In the land of the summer fair, sunny weather is king.

“Perfect weather� is the first thing vendors, visitors and officials noted on Saturday as the 61st annual Westmoreland Fair drew to a close.

The nine-day fair had sunny days, cool nights and no rain, said Craig Lash, president of the fair board.

“Our biggest problem is that too many schools started this week,� Lash said.

Even with kids back in the classroom, Lash predicted that attendance this year would be close to last year, or about 60,000 people.

He said the fair’s tractor pull, monster truck events and demolition derby are among the most popular. A new event, a “princess day� featuring characters from the Disney movie “Frozen,� saw 75 little girls come out in costume to parade around the Mt. Pleasant Township fairgrounds.

“When you’re dealing with 50-some thousand people … we try to satisfy them as best we can, give them a good show and educate them a little on where their food comes from ­â€” not just Giant Eagle,� Lash said.

Barry Galiffa, owner of Galiffa’s Pizza in Donora, said the weather and the crowds have been the best he’s seen in about five years.

Galiffa said his father started attending the fair 45 years ago and always fed the kids staying with their animals in the barns, making sure they had a slice of pizza and a Coke.

He estimates he’ll go through at least 1,500 pounds of cheese during the 17 days he bakes and sells pizzas at the Westmoreland and Washington fairs.

“The weather’s good. The attendance is good, and the (people) even had some money in their pockets this year,� said Jerry Ament as he stood in his Belt and Buckle Shop tent.

Ament said he works in his shop in his Mt. Pleasant home six days a week hand-cutting leather for belts, dog collars and accessories to bring to the fair.

Ament estimated he brought 400 to 500 belts this year, some featuring intricate designs pressed in with an embossing wheel. He custom sizes the belts for customers on the spot, punching a hole at just the right point for the buckle’s prong, then two larger (“because the holidays are coming�) and two smaller (in case the man’s wife gets mad and doesn’t feed him, he joked.)

Although his belts last 10 or 15 years, people return to see him annually at the fair, said his wife, Lillian Ament.

The fair drew visitors from across the region as families stopped to buy ice cream cones, shaved ice with fruit syrups or hot, crispy French fries.

Helen Williams of Penn Hills said she drove in for the food and atmosphere.

The hot sausage sandwiches are delicious, “and the lemonade is always on point,� Williams said.

“We just came out because we knew it was going to be a nice day — not unbearable heat,� she said.

Donna Ottenberg, church secretary for Center Bethel Church of God in Alverton, said the church’s food booth featuring burgers and “walking tacos� has been hopping in the evenings. The food sales help the church pay for improvements, such as new carpeting and paving its parking lot.

“We need people, and you need the good weather to get people here,� Ottenberg said.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856.

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